Bad Hersfeld is a beautifully green spa town, blessed with historical monuments and pretty half-timbered houses. Martin Luther was attracted to its alluring romanticism and preached here during his travels. Today, this quaint town is well known for its annual theatrical festival, which has been running since 1951 and takes place by the Abbey ruins, thought to be the largest Romanesque monastery in Europe and arguably one of the best drops of any outdoor theatre. Theatrical performances are also performed all year round at the Stadthalle (city hall) that also houses the town’s museum in the best-preserved wing of the former monastery. The Protestant City Church is remarkable for its distinctive pyramid-domed bell tower, which acts as a prominent landmark for visitors to find their bearings. Built in three-aisle Gothic style, it has a hall with four bays of eight-sided pillars. During your visit to Bad Hersfeld, be sure to visit one of the local steakhouses serving hearty portions of chargrilled meat washed down with one of Germany’s great beers.
Location: At the heart of Germany
Bad Hersfeld is located near the former West-East German border, roughly 50 km south-east of Kassel. With its prime location in the centre of Germany, it has excellent railway and motorway connections from all directions. However, the closest airport is Frankfurt International Airport, 116 kilometres away, which is quickly reachable by train.
Culture: Historical monuments
The town has a cultural atmosphere that is obvious right from the start. In the Old Town, 216 buildings remain under monumental protection, but the blend of the beautifully ornate gardens gives the place a much younger feel. The Catherine Tower is home to Lullusglocke, Germany’s oldest dated bell, cast in 1038 AD. There are signs of the old fortifications, including the Klausturm, a watchtower and prison. The two Nordschulteiche (“north school ponds”) are remnants of the moat. Eichhof Castle is yet another building of the abbey, situated about three kilometres from the historical centre.
Activities: Summer theatre
The Bad Hersfeld Theatre Festival takes place in mid-June, and attracts many tourists for the theatrical pieces and musicals performed on the 1,400-square metre stages in the Stiftsruine. The mobile roof above the monastery auditorium makes performances possible in all weather conditions. Comedy plays however are typically performed outdoors on the courtyard stage of the Eichhof Castle. A member from the audience receives a ring as a prize, showing the Schwurhand of Charlemagne against the abbey ruins in the background. Visitors to Bad Hersfeld should not miss the opportunity to visit one of the health and wellness baths for which the town is named for–Bad meaning bath in German.